February 7, 2012
The New York Times‘ Scott Shane reported this morning on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism study I wrote about yesterday, detailing that the U.S. drone program, as the NYT put it, “repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” Shane’s article contains this paragraph:
A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”
Note that the “senior counterrorism official” did not deny the findings, at least not in the quotes provided, but there are two lessons to take from this paragraph. First, at least according to some “senior” Obama official, those who report critically on the civilian-killing, rescuer-and-funeral-targeting American drone attacks (i.e., those who “malign these efforts”) are either supporters of or useful idiots for Al Qaeda; it sure is a good thing the Bush era is over when those who questioned the President’s national security policies were accused of helping the Terrorists. Second, if you’re a cowardly senior government official who wants to smear critics as Al Qaeda enablers or supporters, The New York Times will grant you anonymity to do it, all while violating multiple provisions of its own policy on anonymity adopted after its historically shameful performance in the run-up to the Iraq War:
The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy.